Warmer Weather Means Cookouts with Friends


Good Morning Everyone!

I hope you are having a lovely Sunday morning.  It has been gorgeous here this weekend with the weather finally reaching the 60’s and hopefully 70’s today!  LJ and my weekend has been packed with cookouts and friends.  Yesterday we went to a housewarming cookout at our old neighbor’s house in Leesburg, Va.  Their new home is absolutely gorgeous!

Of course I couldn’t show up to the cookout empty handed, so I started digging through my recipe box and decided on hash brown casserole.  This is a popular side dish that can be found at all family gatherings usually made by our aunt Susan.  She definitely makes it the best!

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What you’ll need:

1 pkt Hash browns (from the frozen section, I think mine was 2 pounds?)

1 pint sour cream (or plain nonfat greek yogurt if you want to cut some calories–taste just as good!)

1 cup cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 medium onion diced

1 can cream of celery soup

1/2 cup butter

1 cup corn flakes (I think I ended up adding a tad more.  You just need enough to cover the casserole)

Print Recipe

First preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Dice the onion and place in a large bowl.  Add all other ingredients except the cornflakes and butter.

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This is why you need a LARGE bowl.  It’s a lot of stuff to mix together.  Mix until the hash browns are coated evenly.

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Transfer the mixture to a greased Pyrex glass dish.  Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

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Just before the 40 minutes are up, melt your butter and mix it with the corn flakes.  Remove the casserole from the oven and spread corn flake mixture on top.  Bake for another 20 minutes.

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Remove from the oven and let it cool before serving.  It was definitely a huge hit at the cookout!  We are off to our second cook out of the weekend. What fun things to do you have going on this weekend??

Mindie, Ryanne, and Nicole

Mindy, Ryanne, and Nicole

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There’s no Snow, but I’ve got Snowman Poop!


I feel like this is the first time in a while I have not felt very prepared for the holidays!  I was so busy training for the Dallas Half Marathon I ran on December 9th, work, and attending holiday parties I haven’t had much time to make some of the homemade gifts I intended to make.  Oh well! I guess they will have to be Cheers to 2013 gifts.

Tonight I went to my friend Amy’s house for a “Girls Night In” holiday get together before we all go our separate ways for the holidays.  There’s nothing like breaking up a busy work week with a fun get together on Hump Day!

Amy made yummy chicken tortilla soup and holiday sangria and asked all the girls to bring an appetizer or dessert.  I was super busy today, but picked up some popcorn and white chocolate chips for Snowman Poop.  This is the easiest treat EVER to make and the sweet and salty taste is delish!  I got this recipe from my awesome new sister-in-law Lauren who brought it to a holiday cocktail party I hosted a few years ago.  She got this recipe from her sponsor on her high school dance team and continues to pass it on!

For Snowman Poop you’ll need:

– 1 bag white chocolate chips

– 1 bag popcorn

– Christmas sprinkles if you wish

– Parchment or wax paper

Directions:

– Pop the popcorn according to directions. Put the popcorn in a large bowl, ensuring un-popped kernels are removed.

– Melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave in a bowl or stovetop (do not overcook, just enough that they are melted) in a sauce pan.

– Pour the melted chocolate over top of the popcorn and stir to coat.

– Pour the coated popcorn onto a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.  Spread out evenly and let cool. Break apart into smaller pieces if needed and transfer into your favorite serving dish or Christmas tin!

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I added Christmasy sprinkles before the white chocolate cooled.

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Day #3 Peanut Butter Temptations


Santa 1991

There is nothing more tempting than peanut butter and chocolate. TOGETHER.   So today I am sharing with you another one of our 5 favorite holiday treats.  This is definitely one for my husband’s favorites.  He begs me to make these even if its not Christmas time!

For the Peanut Butter Temptations You’ll Need:

Print Recipe Here

1/2 cup butter or margarine (softened)Ingredients

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 bag of miniature peanut butter cup candies

1 3/4 inch muffin pans

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the peanut butter and softened butter together, gradually adding the sugar.  Beat the mixture well until it is light and fluffy.

Creaming

adding sugar

Once the mixture is light and fluffy, add the egg and vanilla, beating well.  In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, mixing well.

adding vanilla

adding flour

mixing well

Once the dough is mixed well, place in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.  In the mean-time spray your mini-cupcake pan with cooking spray.  Once the dough has finished chilling form into 1-inch balls.  Place balls in greased muffin pan.

1-inch dough

dough ready to bake

Place pans in the oven and bake for 12 minutes.  While the cookies are baking, count how many peanut butter cups you need (24 in my case), and remove them from the wrapper and set aside.  It is important to have these ready because you will need them as soon as the cookies are finished baking!

Reese Cups

Once the cookies are finished, remove from the oven and immediately press a peanut butter cup evenly into hot crust.

pressing down

finished cookies

Let cookies cool in the pan.   Then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.  Repeat until all of the dough is gone.  Arrange cookies on a dish to serve.

finished

If you are looking for something salty to pair with this tempting treat…check out Megan’s homemade chex mix!

Day #2 Homemade Chex Mix


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Another one of our 5 favorite holiday treats in addition to the Fake Heath Bars is Chex Mix.  Can you buy it easily at the store for half the price? Yes.  Does the store-bought version taste as good and make your house smell AMAZING? Nope!  I can remember making this with Ryanne and my mom to put in a tin to give to neighbors, teachers, or friends as a holiday treat.  We’d also make it for snacks when decorating the house for Christmas with our Amy Grant Christmas CD playing or for holiday parties.  We use the Original Chex Party Mix recipe and if you have about and hour and a half to spare (maybe watching Love Actually, Elf, or The Holiday with a glass of wine like me) this recipe is totally worth it!

For the Homemade Chex Mix:

Print Recipe Here

3 Cups Rice ChexIMG_8716

3 Cups Wheat Chex

4 Cups Corn Chex

1 Cup mixed nuts

6 tsp. butter

2 Tbsp. Worchestershire Sauce

1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

3/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

** I left out mini pretzels, but you can add in a cup if you’d like!

Directions:

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First, measure out all of the Chex cereal and combine in a large bowl.

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Add in the cup of mixed nuts.  You can also just do one type of nut if you’d like.

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Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium low heat.

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Add in the Worchestershire Sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder to the melted butter.  Mix until incorporated.

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Pour the butter mixture over the bowl of Chex Mix cereal and nuts.  Stir to ensure that the butter mixture evenly covers the cereal.

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Pour the mixture into a large baking dish or jelly roll pans.  Bake at 250 F for 1 hour.  Set your timer for 15 minute increments so you can stir the mix to make sure it roasts evenly.

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Doesn’t it look yummy?! When the hour is up cool the mixture for about 10 minutes.  Store in an airtight container or gallon sized Ziploc bag.

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For sharing as gifts, put in a Christmas tin or large mason jar with a ribbon tied around the top – You will definitely be on Santa’s Nice List… Enjoy!

Dill Dippin’


Good morning, friends!   I hope each of you had a fun Thanksgiving filled with good food and family!  I spent my first Thanksgiving with my husband’s family.  LJ’s uncle Tim cooked up a turkey on the grill.  Everyone brought sides and desserts to share.  Boy, were we stuffed by the end of the day!  It’s always fun to see what traditions other families do on the holidays.  We had a great time and I look forward to spending many more holiday’s with them.

Yesterday morning, LJ and I packed up our car at 5 am (with Molly, our golden retriever in tow) and headed down to Blacksburg for the annual Commonwealth Cup.  My parents have season tickets to Virginia Tech games and this was the first time we were able to make it down for a game this season (we’ve been a little busy with the wedding).  It was one of the coldest games I’ve been to.  It actually started to flurry while we were tailgating.  I was pretty nervous about the game since we’ve had a pretty disappointing season.  Even with our worst season in over 20 years, we pulled off a win against the Wahoos!  It always feels good to beat UVA 🙂

LJ and I freezing in the stands waiting for the game to start.

Now, for those of you who went to a big football school, you know the best part of the game is the tailgating.  Since it was a 12 o’clock game, we decided to have appetizers before the game and the big meal after the game (we had Smithfield’s BBQ yesterday…..best southern BBQ!!).  Even though it was freezing, my dad and I still had our Bloody Mary (Floyd tradition before Tech games).  For the tailgate I decided to make dill dip with fresh veggies.  As you can see from Megan’s thanksgiving post….dill dip is a common appetizer around the holidays in our family.  It’s one of our maternal grandmother’s (Daga’s) recipe.  It’s perfect to make for tailgating!

Print Dill Dip Recipe

What you’ll need for dill dip:

1 cup mayo

1 cup sour cream (or plain greek yogurt…if you want to cut down the fat)

2 Tablespoons dehydrated parsley

3 Tablespoons dried minced onion

4 Teaspoons dill weed

4 teaspoons Beau Monde

I chose to use the light version of mayo and sour cream.  I am positive that Daga went with the regular versions, but its up to you!  Now I would also like to point out the type of mayo I used:  Duke’s Mayonnaise.

This, my friends, is definitely a family favorite.   If you are looking for a good southern mayo….search no farther.  I can remember Megan and I going to visit our great-grandmother Ginnie in Burkeville, Virginia.  She would always have a jar of Duke’s mayo in her refrigerator.  It was perfect on a tomato sandwich with fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Now back to the dill dip…..First add your mayo and sour cream to a small bowl.  Mix together well.

Next add all of the remaining ingredients (parsley, minced onion, dill weed, and beau monde).  Mix together well.

Chill until ready to serve.   Place dip in a bowl and serve with fresh cut veggies.  Enjoy!

LJ, Molly, and I are off to pick out our Christmas tree.  Happy Sunday!

No longer at the kids’ table…


Thanksgiving is just a few days away and this is my first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner!  I am very excited, yet never imagined my first time hosting would be in my teeny weenie apartment that barely fits me, my dog Airlie, and my husband.  Despite this, I’m super excited to be hosting my parents, my in-laws, and our friends Pat and Rachel!  It will be a tight squeeze, but I’m prepared (and so is Airlie, we need her for her vacuuming skills).

Thinking about Thanksgiving takes me back to the days when I was stuck at the kids table and wasn’t quite old enough to help out my grandmothers, aunts, and mother in the kitchen.  The only job I usually had was to set the table, which I hated doing ANY day of the year.  My grandmothers would pull out their finest china and polish up the silver – Thanksgiving was quite an affair for our family!

So when I started planning how to approach hosting Thanksgiving in our tiny apartment I had to channel my grandmothers’ sense of entertaining on a budget.  I wanted to keep everything simple, yet elegant like my grandmothers did when they hosted during the Holidays.  I also had to keep in mind I didn’t want to buy seasonal decorations that I would have to later find some place to store it.  So here it is:

– I found this simple but pretty table cloth on sale at Target today.  It’s great because it looks sand-colored from far away (which matches the rest of our decor in our apartment), but up close it has a hint of gold.  I can use this not only for Thanksgiving, but through Christmas and maybe beyond as well.  Total cost: $13.99 (without tax).

– As I perused further in Target, I found some cute mercury glass votives.  Another lady and I commented on how pretty and inexpensive they were!  I wanted something low for a centerpiece on the table so everyone can see who they are talking to.  I ended up buying 3 (like I’ve said before, I always design in odd numbers!) and they are a great compliment to my china.  I will definitely use these throughout the year and they don’t take up much space.  Total cost: $4.47 (plus cost of tea light candles to put in which was $3.19 for 9).

– I already had some small vases I bought at the Crate and Barrel outlet several years ago.  I plan to pick up some fall colored small flowers or pick some marigolds in my container garden to fill these and mix with the votives on the table.

Now, I realize that many people out there don’t really know how to properly set a table.  This was something my parents made sure I knew from an early age.  I’d love to see statistics on Thanksgiving day for google searches on how to set a table… maybe it will lead them to this post! I don’t have crystal but plan on using some of our every day glasses that aren’t in our storage unit.  See below for the basic place setting.

I really do want to showcase my china that I’m in love with, so I might end up setting it like this.

 

I’ll post more pictures of our dining room table after it’s all complete (and after Matt and I run in the Ridgewood Turkey Trot!). Get ready for Turkey and pecan pie !!!

Pecan Pie… Oh My!


There’s nothing more southern on Thanksgiving than pecan pie in my opinion and let me tell you, my grandmother GG made the BEST EVER!  We were very lucky to have most of our family living in Culpeper so we got to have two Thanksgivings in one day.  I remember waking up to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Ryanne while my mom started cooking whatever she was bringing for Thanksgiving.  We’d usually start off at one grandparent’s house, eat Thanksgiving lunch, then sit around until we came out of our first food coma and then move on to the next grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

No matter how much I had eaten, I always managed to reserve a square inch in my stomach for GG’s pecan pie… yes it was that good.  So when I signed up for my office Thanksgiving potluck I figured why not bring GG’s pecan pie?  It’s quick, easy, delicious, and a definite crowd pleaser.  For those out there that are afraid to cook or bake, this is the recipe for you.  You’ll look like a baking rock star for your friends and family!

GG’s Perfect Pecan Pie:

Print Recipe Here!

3 eggs

3/4 Cup corn syrup

1/8 tsp. salt

2/3 Cups pecans chopped

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup sugar

1 pie crust

First pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Slightly beat the 3 eggs in a bowl.

Add in the cup of sugar and salt.

And the 2/3 cups chopped pecans.

Add the 3/4 cup corn syrup and tsp. of vanilla.

Stir everything together until it looks like so…

Pour  mixture into an UNBAKED pie crust.  If I had more time I would have made my own, but for the sake of time I used a store-bought crust.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 375 F. Then reduce heat to 350 F and bake until a knife comes out clean, about 40 more minutes (just keep an eye on it!).

I hope you enjoy this Southern favorite as much as my family does!

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dessert?

The Girl & The Fig


I just wanted to write a quick post to share with you my new obesssion. Figs.  Honestly before a week ago I never really have eaten a fig except for maybe in Fig Newtons.  Let me tell you about how my obsession with figs all started.

One day about three weeks ago my mom called from Wilmington, NC and said she had gone and picked figs from a friend’s house.  “Interesting, I wonder what a fig tree looks like”, I thought.

Then at the farmer’s market I saw some in a pretty little blue container for $3.  They looked pretty gross to me, actually, but I figured I’d give them a try.

I was browsing through a food blog that I follow called 100 Days of Real Food, which encourages eating non-processed foods and there it was, a picture of figs and goat cheese! That was it!  I was going to test them out on my friends that were coming over for dinner that night.  So that’s what I did… and those little goat cheese stuffed figs were DELICIOUS.  Not only were they super easy to make (it might have taken 10 minutes total), but they looked like a gourmet appetizer you’d order from a swanky restaurant!

Here’s what you need for the Goat Cheese and Fig Appetizers:

Print recipe here

  • Fresh figs
  • Organic goat cheese (I used plain from Whole Foods)
  • Balsamic vinegar

I turned my little toaster oven onto the broiler setting, covered a pan with aluminum foil, and washed and halved the figs.

Then I took a small amount of goat cheese and spooned it into the fig. I put the pan under the broiler for approximately 3 minutes.

Then I transferred them to my serving tray and drizzled with local NC honey and balsamic vinegar.  I left the honey off of the ingredients you need because we really could have done without it.  The figs were so sweet on their own that I don’t think it was necessary. The goat cheese figs were a big hit!

It’s amazing that food really is all around us. I’ve even started to notice fig trees on my morning running routes through downtown Raleigh!

What’s a unique vegetable or fruit you’ve tried lately?

Coming soon, how to properly steam and pick crabs!